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Mock crash and chemical spill in Cambridge helps train emergency services

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Emergency services gathered behind St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School in Cambridge on Monday for a training exercise simulating a chemical spill involving a bus crashing into a truck.

The Cambridge Fire Department, paramedics, police, Cambridge Memorial Hospital and Waterloo Regional REACT were all on hand to go through the proper steps of evacuating each injured person from the scene.

"Bringing all agencies together for the collaboration and understanding of different policies and procedure, and just ensuring that we can meet ahead of time and get that connection," Assist. Dep. Chief Gina Cliffe, from the Cambridge Fire Department said.

Organizers said it was the perfect place for those looking to dabble in a different profession.

"It gets them out to see what's going on, to see how things are done. Gives them that step up when they're in college or when they're trying to apply to a different service," Rick Weisler, president of Waterloo Regional REACT, said.

With Highway 401 so close, a crash similar to this can happen in so staying up to date with who does what is important for keeping everyone safe.

“Just to have that collaboration and look at that unified command," Cliffe said.

Cambridge Memorial Hospital said this type of training gets all the services on the same page.

Last fall, the hospital had a large fire where patients were discharged from an inventory area – a prime example of training put to a real life test.

"If there was a multi-patient event such as this, it would be great to get an early heads up or a warning from the site so that we could move patients around in the emergency department,” Liane Barefoot, Director, Patient Experience, Risk & Quality, Infection Control at Cambridge Memorial Hospital said. “We could move patients around in our inpatient units if we had to. We could activate one of our codes, call in additional staff if we need to. If we needed to work with community partners, we could look at decanting some of our patients actually offsite."

Students from St. Benedict acted as the victims at the scene. Some also acted as concerned parents or media. They used makeup for pretend injuries and some were put on a stretcher or carried by the firefighters.

"I was trying to go for a shaken young kid,” said Maxwell Girsa, a grade 11 student.

Girsa played the role of the truck driver. He said the emergency crews were professional and helpful through the whole training scenario.

"Always been kind of interested in the process. And this was a very cool experience," Girsa said.

Normally responders would wear protective suits at a chemical spill but they left them off because of the heat.

The fire department is planning a more large scale emergency event, but also tries to do these smaller scale types of training events every 2 to 3 years so they can stay up to date with all of the different services.

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